Jan. 27, 2011 -- A full-page advertisement by 400 rabbis in today's Wall Street Journal has put a spotlight on a trend many people see as alarming: the use of the word Nazi to bash opponents in public discourse.
There are now Gym Nazis and Grammar Nazis. Members of the La Leche League have even been blasted as Breastfeeding Nazis.
The TV comedy "Seinfeld" may have opened the floodgates with its legendary episode about the Soup Nazi.
But the use of the other N-word has become especially pronounced in political debate; most recently last week, when Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., compared Republican rhetoric in the health-care debate to Nazi propaganda.
In their advertisement, the 400 rabbis single out Fox News host Glenn Beck and Fox News chief Roger Ailes for using Nazi and other Holocaust references in slamming adversaries.
The rabbis are demanding that Ailes apologize and that Fox owner Rupert Murdoch sanction Beck.
"In the charged political climate in the current civic debate, much is tolerated," the rabbis write in their advertisement, published in the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal and the Forward, a Jewish newspaper.
"But you diminish the memory and meaning of the Holocaust when you use it to discredit any organization or individual you disagree with."
Ailes landed in hot water last fall for calling National Public Radio executives Nazis for firing Juan Williams, who also was working as a commentator for Fox News.
Beck has been under attack for three days of programs attacking liberal billionaire and Holocaust survivor George Soros.
Beck described Soros as a "Jewish boy helping send Jews to the death camps."
Soros has spoken about posing as a member of a Christian family to escape the Holocaust and accompanying his surrogate dad, whose job involved confiscating property from Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary.
The ad bashing Beck and Ailes was backed by a coalition of U.S. rabbinical organizations and timed to coincide with today's Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was paid for by Jewish Funds for Justice, an organization that has received funding from Soros.
Nazi References Called Serious Problem
Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for his Nazi comment but has defended Beck's practice of invoking Nazi terms to slam his opponents.
The ad by the rabbis says that Ailes should apologize for making "dismissive remarks about rabbis' sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air."
In a written statement, Fox News Senior Vice President Joel Cheatwood said, "This group is a George Soros-backed, left-wing political organization that has been trying to engage Glenn Beck primarily for publicity purposes."
Abe Foxman, a child survivor of the Holocaust and the National Director of the Anti Defamation League, called the increasing use of Nazi references in the public arena "a very serious problem."
"It's a trivialization of the Holocaust … and it's all over the place. It's in the media, it's in political life, it's in entertainment."
Asked why, Foxman said, "The further away we move from that period, the fewer witnesses there are. More and more people don't understand."
He said both Beck and Ailes deserve criticism for their comments, but he called the advertisement by the 400 rabbis "bizarre."
Foxman said the rabbis should have taken both Republicans and Democrats to task -– not just Fox News -- for using Nazi references. Beck, Ailes and Fox News "are not enemies of the Jewish people," he said.
Deborah Lipstadt, professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, said the use of the word Nazi is partly the product of an age when political debate "has become rougher and tougher, more stupid and more glib."
She agreed that both liberals and conservatives are responsible. "One of the first places that I noticed it was by the left against the United States and Israel," she said.
But she said she had no problem with the rabbis singling out Ailes and Beck, saying the two men have an enormous platform for their views that others do not.
"There is nothing wrong with criticizing some idiot who marches in the street with a poster that says, 'George Bush equals Nazi … but Glenn Beck has one of the most popular shows on Fox News and Roger Ailes runs the network," she said.